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Early morning bike commutes need a hot caffeinated beverage: the aroma of a freshly-brewed mug of black gold will perk up the droopiest of eyelids, the heat will thaw out chilly fingertips so they can do important cycling things like pulling brake levers, and the caffeine will super-charge the old ticker so that it will get you up those steep ascents on the way to the office.
“Cycling with a cup of coffee has always been a dangerous undertaking that can be fraught with disappointment and disaster”
But, cycling with a cup of coffee has always been a dangerous undertaking that can be fraught with disappointment and disaster. Spills from open-topped cups and leaks from apparently “leakproof” mugs. Travel mugs that promised much in the way of keeping your drink hot for hours….but then only delivered lukewarm coffee after a short period. Oh, and let’s not forget about the gunk that always built up inside the sealed lids that were impossible to clean.
Thankfully, many manufacturers have faced into this important challenge and developed travel mugs that hit the spot for bike commuting. And, one of the finest mugs I’ve tried is the Trigger-action Travel Mug from Stanley.
Stanley Trigger-action Travel Mug: Details
There’s a lot to like about this travel mug. So, let’s take a quick look at the basic details and then we’ll dive into the features that I think really sing out.
Volume for the travel mug is 16 oz (470ml). For me, that’s plenty of space for my morning brew (and, in fact, I could’ve sized-down to the 12 oz Travel Mug instead). If, however, you like your to-go coffee with a generous amount of steamed milk, thick layer of foam and, well, even more coffee, then I’d recommend that you “Go Large” and grab a 20 oz Travel Mug. If your return trip also needs to be caffeinated, then I’d suggest adding Stanley’s 20 oz Legendary Bottle to your commuter backpack. I have a deep love for this bottle and take it with me on the bike, in the car, on hikes, and…well let’s just say that, where I go, the 20 oz Legendary bottle goes too.
Stanley claim that the 16 oz Travel Mug is good for keeping drinks for the following time lengths:
Though I actually think that they may be accused of hiding their light under a bike helmet with these. In my testing, I’ve found that I can achieve these comfortably. And, in fact, with a simple bit of pre-prep I can push each up by 1-2hrs or more. The trick is to warm/chill the mug first before putting your drink in. So, if you’re filling your mug with hot coffee, fill the mug with nearly boiling water first and let it sit for a couple minutes with the lid on. Empty out that water completely and immediately fill the mug with your beverage and seal the lid on. Try it and prepare to be amazed at the difference it can make.
Stanley have made a number of other claims about the mug which, unfortunately, my insurers won’t let me test out. These include that the mug can survive -70 degree wind chill, speeding bullets, 4000ft drops and Cat5 hurricanes. Apologies but we’ll just have to take Stanley’s word on these.
What I really like about the Travel Mug
We can however test out some other aspects of the Travel Mug and that’s just what I’ve done.
Single-handed lid opening lets you keep typing as you drink
My previous travel mug had a number of faults. The biggest of which probably was that it required both hands to operate: you had to use one hand to hold the body of the mug as you opened the lid with your other hand. This was a huge PITA. It meant, for example, that you couldn’t type and drink at the same time. It also meant that you couldn’t have a slug of coffee whilst pedaling along (unless you’d had a suitably misspent youth and mastered the whole no-handed cycling thing).
The Stanley mug is different though because the trigger-action means that you can hold the mug with one hand and use the index finger of the same hand to open the lid. Press to open the lid, drink, release the trigger and the lid closes securely. Game-changer.
The lid opening moderates the flow of coffee
This is a tricky one to explain but, as well as being easy to operate, the trigger-action seems to moderate the flow of your beverage to a sensible amount. This means that you don’t get a huge gulp of hot coffee coming through (cue coughing and spluttering and dribbling over your slacks or skirt) when all you were aiming for was a small sip.
Allied to this is the shape of the lid top surface. As you’ll see from the photos, it’s highest towards the drinking hole and this is clever because it means that you won’t get a pool of coffee forming (as you can get with some travel mugs). No pool of coffee means nothing to spill out onto your keyboard afterwards.
The lid is more secure than Fort Knox
I’ve been impressed by the unwillingness of the lid to spill even a single drop of coffee. I’ve thrown the mug. Shaken it upside down. Dropped it into my backpack and headed out on to some fairly challenging bike trails, with the odd fall or two here and there. I’ve even, EVEN, tipped the mug up to a 45 degree angle and taken a drink (something that my previous mug couldn’t manage).
No spillage in any of my tests and I’m now happy to pack this next to my laptop or phone as I cycle into the office. You can quite literally fill this up and throw it in your bag, happy in the knowledge that the coffee will stay inside the mug and not spill out all over your sandwiches.
Gunk has nowhere to hide
I think that probably my biggest issue with travel mugs in the past has been the gunk, mold and general yuck that has always started to gather in hard-to-reach places after a period of time. It might be on the inner surface of the mug body, though at least you can see this forming and catch it early on (I find that a baby’s bottle brush is the perfect way of cleaning this off).
The real problem gunk though is the stuff that you normally don’t even see on a travel mug. This is the muck that gathers inside the lid. On many mugs you can’t even open up the lid itself to see this junk. On some mugs, you can, but it’s so fiendishly complicated that once you open it it will never go back together again.
The Stanley Travel Mug is different though. Remove the lid from the body and turn the lid upside down. You’ll see a U-shaped handle with a locked padlock/unlocked padlock symbol on it. Twist the handle anti-clockwise, by around 45 degrees, and the ‘handle’ section will slide towards you out of the lid. You can then easily clean the insides with a slim baby bottle brush (it’s handy if you can buy a bottle brush that has two ends – one slim one for the lid and one larger one for the body).
Fits like a dream in my bike bottle holder
The outer diameter of the mug is 2.9 inches (73mm). That’s a great fit for most vehicle drinks holders (and it fits great in our Toyota). For me though, the beauty of this is that it fits perfectly in the standard sized water bottle holders that I have fitted to my bikes. Whilst I often like to keep my travel mug in my backpack (so I don’t forget it when I head to my desk), it’s handy when it’s slotted into the bottle holder as it means I can merrily slurp my coffee as I head into the city on a morning.
What do I dislike about the Stanley Travel Mug
It’s mostly good stuff with the Travel Mug, but I want to mention a couple potential downsides. First is the lack of a handle. Now, I always think that, if you’re holding onto a mug by the handle…and the handle breaks…then you lose your coffee. If, on the other hand, you’re holding onto the mug body…and the handle breaks…you’ve just lost the handle and not the coffee. So, I’m not concerned about the lack of a handle and actually I find that mugs with handles can get snagged on bike bottle holders and the insides of backpacks. That said, you may like a handle, so I wanted to mention it.
Also, the Travel Mug has a default of being always closed: you press the trigger to open the lid, drink, then release the trigger and the lid closes back up again. This is a great safety feature because, let’s face it, who hasn’t ever put a slightly open/leaky cup of coffee in a bag and watched it spill over their important papers and laptop? Any time your finger isn’t on the trigger you know that it’s safely closed and won’t spill a drop. Most of the time that’s perfect. Now and again though it’s handy to have a coffee mug that stays open – for example when it’s sitting on your desk. Again, for me, this hasn’t been an issue and I’m happy with the default “always closed” feature of the mug.
Overall, I really like the Stanley Travel Mug. It’s got all the features I need, some that I didn’t even know I needed (ability to survive speeding bullets, etc), packs easily for my bike commute, looks great and won’t spill my coffee. The tricky bit is choosing your favorite color.